New CAM exhibition explores Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of the artist

The current exhibition uses photographs to depict the impacts of war on small villages, including Bedouin communities. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) unveiled last Monday the “Miki Kratsman: People I Met” exhibition, a two-part installation that aims to capture the distant reality of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The exhibition will run until Dec. 8.

Upon entering the West Gallery, located within CAM, students can see photographic pieces from Kratsman’s “Bedouin Archive” and “Displaced” series.

The installation also features two tables with clusters of images, which depict the current condition of the Bedouin villages due to the presence of Israeli military.

As students observe the photography in the “Displaced” series, they can analyze the suffering of the Bedouin people by the torn-down buildings presented in most of the image selections.

The CAM Deputy Director Noel Smith, said there’s a strong message being revealed through the artist’s documentary work.

“It’s more about the results of conflict,” Smith said. “You can extrapolate a lot of ideas about what conflict does to populations and to people, and how photography plays a role.”

Smith said that Kratsman created this installation with the purpose of forming a representation for Bedouins because many people are unaware of their existence.

“The Bedouins are nomadic people who have for thousands of years lived in the area that’s now Israel,” Smith said. “And they are a part of human rights campaign to establish a historical record as they resist house demolition, forced relocation and land expropriation.”

Certain aspects such as the sleeping mats they use and the poor structure of their homes illustrate the progressive demolition in the southern Israel area.

On another side of the gallery, students are also able to see five large images of five nomadic Bedouins in the “Bedouin Archive” series.

While this part of the exhibition seeks to inform visitors about the specific group of people, CAM also presents a 2017 video titled,"70 Meters…White T Shirt”, so that students can see clear moving content of the violence the villages face.

While students watch the eight-minute and 42-second video, which records a full year of shooting in Nabi Salih (a Palestinian village in the West Bank). They can hear gunshots and see people of all ages running and dodging the bullets aimed at them.  

“The video shows you, firstly, the kind of dangers that photojournalists face covering these areas,” Smith said. “I look forward to hearing him (Kratsman) talk about what exactly went on here.”

According to Smith, a main part of the exhibition that is yet to be seen is the 2,000 self-portraits of Palestinians from Kratsman’s archive, a collection of photographs that Kratsman mainly took while working as a photographer for Israeli newspapers.

Smith mentioned that the idea behind these images is centered on conceptual photography.

“Conceptual art looks at more of the idea than the specific medium,” Smith said. “In this case, he was making all these images for years and years, and at one point he said, ‘I wonder who these people are?’”

As explained by Smith, Kratsman’s curiosity on the life of each person he photographed drove him to upload his work on Facebook with a caption that read, ‘Do you know this person?’.

“He got a lot of responses,” Smith said. “(The responses read): this person died, this person lives across the street he’s a baker or that’s me I’m doing well I’m fine.”

In the Lee and Victor Leavengood Gallery, the 2,000 portraits will be posted and on another side of the gallery, students will see the answers about each person.

According to Smith, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a subject that most people aren’t inform on. She’s confident that the “People I Met” exhibition will give students a much needed educational experience.

“They’re going to learn about a lot of people, specifically the Bedouins, they’re going to learn about things that have happened in Israel, and about people’s lives there.” Smith said. “I want students to also consider the role of photography because it’s a very important aspect of the exhibition.”